Principal Conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall
Sarah Hicks is the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, a broad-spectrum series of popular music, jazz, Broadway classics and movie scores. In this role, she oversees planning for the Live at Orchestra Hall season and conducts many performances on that series by the full Orchestra. She also conducted the Inside the Classics and Sam & Sarah series, which were hosted by Orchestra violist Sam Bergman, for ten seasons.
Hicks’ career has seen collaborations with a diverse range of artists, from Hilary Hahn and Dmitri Hvorostovsky to Rufus Wainwright, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson. She has been an artistic leader in concerts featuring artists from Minnesota’s internationally-renowned popular music scene—including shows with PaviElle French, The New Standards, multiple sold-out performances with Dessa and collaborations with indie band Cloud Cult. She also worked with director Peter Rothstein, writer Kevin Kling and composer Robert Elhai on creating an original Minnesota Orchestra holiday concert that was presented as a central part of the annual Holiday season at Orchestra Hall. Her passion for cross-genre partnerships led to a 2019 album with Dessa and the Orchestra entitled Sound the Bells, and in 2021 she collaborated with DrLupo for an innovative live-gaming project for Intel.
Hicks was the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of pops and presentations from 2009 to 2013; for three prior seasons she was the Orchestra’s assistant conductor. In 2008, she arranged music for and conducted “A Scandinavian Christmas” concerts. She has twice led the Orchestra in classical subscription concerts, including fully-staged performances of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel in 2009. Starting in 2007 she conducted the Inside the Classics series, which in 2012 featured the world premiere of Acadia, a major work by New York-based composer Judd Greenstein—commissioned specifically for Inside the Classics and funded entirely through donations by more than 400 individuals via the Orchestra’s Musical MicroCommission project.
A specialist in film music and the film in concert genre, she is passionate about creating concert experiences which combine sight and sound, and that welcome new audiences to the orchestral genre. She has premiered Pixar in Concert and Disney and Pixar’s Coco in Concert; her live concert recording of A Celebration of the Music from Coco at the Hollywood Bowl can be seen on Disney+ and her work on The Little Mermaid Live! was broadcast on ABC. With the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, she recorded film music for an album titled The Morricone Duel, which was released in 2018, has been broadcast around the world and has garnered over 150 million views on YouTube.
Hicks has garnered national and international acclaim as a highly sought-after conductor: she has guest conducted both in the United States and abroad, leading such ensembles as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Cincinnati Pops, Dallas Symphony, Grant Park Music Festival, Hawaii Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, RTÉ (Dublin) Orchestra, Czech National Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, WDR Köln, Tokyo Philharmonic and Malaysian Philharmonic, among many others. Her opera appearances have included the East Slovak State Opera Theater and the Curtis Opera Theater, as well as operas in concert with the Minnesota Orchestra and the RTÉ Orchestra. Her commitment to new music led to the creation of an innovative micro-commission project, and her recording of new concertos, Triple Doubles, was released on the Bridge label. During the summer of 2011 Hicks served as conductor for Sting’s Symphonicity Tour, leading 31 concerts over two months in venues throughout Europe. She has completed a recording project with the Vermont Symphony, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson.
Hicks’ 2022-23 season at Orchestra Hall included live-to-picture performances of The Princess Bride, Elf, Symphony for Our World, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince™ and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the summertime, she led a program with Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus, and three sold out concerts at Orchestra Hall with Dessa that were broadcast on Twin Cities PBS. Hicks will lead nearly all concerts on the Orchestra’s 2023-24 U.S. Bank Movies & Music slate, which features Get Out, Frozen, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows™ Part 1 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In April 2024, she will conduct the Orchestra’s first concerts with Minnesota-based hip-hop artist Nur-D. Outside of Orchestra Hall, Hicks will appear in the upcoming season of BBC Proms with Rufus Wainwright, and with the symphonies of Cincinnati, Colorado, San Francisco and Iceland, among others.
Hicks is a frequent guest lecturer and panelist and was on faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music from 2000 to 2005 and served as staff conductor until 2012. Her presentation, “The Art of Conducting,” has illustrated the idea of collaborative leadership to numerous organizations, civic groups and corporations. Her interest in the intersection of mental health and music led to the production of a concert titled Music and the Mind in 2020; during the Orchestra’s 2023 summer festival, she led Music & Healing, a concert and conversation that explored music, anxiety and well-being. Her commitment to open conversations about mental health issues continues through her blog, podcast, YouTube series and other online advocacy.
Born in Tokyo and raised in Honolulu, Hicks trained on both the piano and the viola. She received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University as a composition major and she holds an artist’s diploma in conducting from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with the late renowned pedagogue Otto-Werner Mueller.
Hicks is the first woman to hold a titled conductor post in the Minnesota Orchestra’s history.